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Full text of "Description of Elgin Garden, the property of David Hosack, M.D"

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Founded 1836 

U. S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare 

Public Health Service 


£^ 2 ~< 









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IN the year 1801, Dr. Hosack, being the professor of 
Botany and Materia Medica in Columbia College, purcha- 
sed twenty acres of land, near New- York, for the establish- 
ment of a Botanic Garden. Its situation is on the middle 
road, between the Bloomingdale and Kingsbridge roads. 
Its distance from the City-Hall is about three miles and an 
half. Its inclination is toward the east and south ; so that 
the plants have the advantage of the rising and mid-day sun. 
The view from the most elevated part of Elgin-ground, is 
variegated and extensive. The East and North Rivers, 
with their vast amount of navigation, are plain in sight. 
Bevond these great thoroughfares of business, the fruitful 
fields of Long-Island, and the picturesque shores of New- 
Jersey, give beauty and interest to the prospect. The tract 
contains within itself a remarkable difference of soils, from 
the rocky up-land, to the hilly slope, and the moist and watery 
bottom. There is consequently that union of situation and 
convenience, which is adapted to the cultivation of the great 
variety of vegetable species. 

The conservatory and hot-houses present a front of one 
hundred and eighty feet. They are not only constructed 

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with Rreat architectural taste and elegance, but experience has 
also shown, they are well calculated for the preservation ot 
the most tender exotics that require protection from the se- 
verity of our climate. The grounds are also arranged and 
planted agreeably to the most approved stile of ornamental 
gardening. The whole is surrounded by a belt ot forest 
trees and shrubs judiciously chequered and mingled ; and 
enclosed by a well constructed stone-wall. 

The interior is divided into various compartments, not 
only calculated for the instruction of the student in Botany, 
but subservient to agriculture, the arts, and to manu- 
factures. A nursery is also begun, for the purpose of intro- 
ducing into this country the choicest fruits of the table. Nor 
is the kitchen garden neglected in this establishment. An 
apartment is also devoted to experiments in the culture of 
those plants which may be advantageously introduced and 
naturalized to our soil and climate, that are at present annu- 
ally imported from abroad. But this institution merits a 
more minute detail of its various uses. It is therefore re- 
quested that the reader will accompany the visitor in a walk 
while he surveys the different objects which attract his no- 
tice in this inclosure. 

The forest trees and shrubs which surround the estab- 
lishment, first claim his attention. Here are beautifully dis- 
tributed and combined the oak, the plane, the elm, the su- 
gar maple, the locust, the horse chesnut, the mountain ash, 
the basket willow, and various species of poplar. In front 
of these, a similarly varied collection of shrubs, natives and 
foreign, compose an amphitheatre, which, winding with the 
walks, presents at every step something new and engaging. 
On the other side the eye reposes on the green lawn which is 
occasionally intercepted with groups of trees and shrubs hap- 
pily adapted to its varied surface. 

In extending his walks to the garden, on each side, he is 
equally gratified and instructed by the numerous plants 
which are here associated in scientific order, for the infor- 
mation of the student in Botany or Medicine. Here the 
Turkey rhubarb, Carolina pink-root, the poppy and the fox- 
glove, with many other plants of the Materia Medica are 
seen in cultivation The agriculturist also here observes 
the plants most useful for the food of man, cattle or kine a 
WeU as those which are destructive by their poisonous prop 


erties. The artist and manufacturer may also here receive 
a lesson of instruction. 

As he proceeds he arrives at a nursery of the finest fruits, 
which the proprietor has been enabled to procure from va- 
rious parts of the world, and from which the establishment 
will hereafter derive one of the principal means of its sup- 

The visitor next comes in view of a pond of water 1 devo- 
ted to the varieties of nymphcea, pontederia and other 
aquatics which adorn its surface, while the adjacent grounds 
which are moist afford the proper and natural soil for a 
great variety of our most valuable native plants. Tne rho- 
dodendrons, magnolias, the kalmias, the willows, the 
stuartia ; the candleberry myrtle ; the cupressus disticha, and 
the sweet-smelling clethra alnifolia, here grow in rich lux- 
uriance, and compose a beautiful picture in whatever direc- 
tion they fall under his eye. 

As he leaves this groupe, and passes to the higher situa- 
tions of this delightfully varied surface, he finds a corres- 
ponding distribution of the numerous plants which compose 
this collection. 

Here a rocky and elevated spot attracts his attention, by 
the varied species of pine, juniper, yew, and hemlock, 
with which it is covered. There a solitary oak breaks the 
surface of the lawn ; here a group of poplars ; there the 
more splendid foliage of the different species of magnolia, 
intermixed with the fringe tree, the thorny aralia, and the 
snow drop halesia, call his willing notice. 

Entering the green-house, his eye is saluted with a rich 
and varied collection : the silver protea, the lemon, the 
orange, the oleander, the citron, the shaddock, the myr- 
tle, the jasmine and the numerous and infinitely varied fami- 
ly of geranium, press upon his view, while the perfumes 
emitted from the fragrant daphne, heliotropium, and the 
coronilla no less attract his notice than do the splendid petals 
of the camellia japonica, the amaryllis, the cistus, erica 
and purple magnolia. 

In the hot-house he finds himself translated to the heat of 
the tropics. Here he observes the golden pine, the sugar 
cane, the cinnamon, the ginger, the splendid strelitzia, 
and ixora coccinea intermixed with the bread fruit, the 
coffee tree, the plantain, the arrow root, the sago, the avi- 

gato pear, the mimosa yielding the gum arabic, and the 
fragrant farnesiana. 

Here are also to be seen the succulent tribes of aloe, se- 
dum, mesembryanthemum, the night blowing cereus, ana 
the cactus which feeds the cochineal, covered with its in- 

In front of the buildings are several beautiful clumps 
composed of the more delicate and valuable shrubs inter- 
mingled with a great variety of roses, kalmias and azaleas. 
Their borders are also successively enamelled with the 
crocus, the snow drop, the asphodel, the hyacinth, and the 
more splendid species of the iris. 

Here also is viola tricolor, 

-" A little western flower 

Before milk white : now purple, with loves wounds," 

saluting the senses with its beautiful assemblage of colours 
but yielding in fragrance to its rival viola odorata which 

-" Sweeter than the lids of Juno's eyes, 

Or Cythereas breath,"- 

also adds zest to this delicious banquet. 

Every tree, shrub, and herbaceous plant is labelled and 
designated by i#s botanic name for the instruction of the 

Dr. Hosack has also connected with this establishment, 
an extensive Herbarium which contains not only a great va- 
riety of plants collected by himself in Great Britain, and in 
this country, but is also enriched by many valuable spe- 
cimens furnished by the late celebrated Danish professor 
Vahl ; by Curtis, and Dickson, and by duplicates from the 
Hortus Siccus of Linnaeus, presented by Dr. Smith, the 
learned president of the Linnsean Society, and the present 
possessor of the rich collections of the celebrated Swede. 

To this establishment Dr. H. has also added a well cho- 
sen Botanical Library, consisting of the most celebrated 
works, both ancient and modern, which are necessary to 
illustrate that science, as well as its application to medicine, 
to agriculture and the arts to which it is subservient. 

Such is an imperfect sketch of the beauties and riches of 
this ornament of our state and country.